Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays!

I was hoping to be able to write a full blog post again this week, but with Christmas now literally just around the corner, I haven't had much time for anything non-Christmas or work related...including my blog  :(    What with packing up the belongings of one dog and then bringing him to my friend's house for the weekend, then packing up the belongings of the other dog (who is coming with us up to visit my family in Vermont), plus last minute Christmas shopping, present wrapping, and of course a Christmas manicure (a gift given to me by one of my bosses!), I just haven't had any time for quite literally ANYTHING else.  Plus, we are leaving for Vermont tonight, and guess who hasn't finished all her packing yet?!  You got it, this girl!  So after leaving work, it will be a mad dash to the house to take out the dog, feed him, feed the cats, pack up my clothes and then of course the car...and we're off!  Somehow I don't think it will be that quickly though.  Call it a hunch. 

I did want to take the time though to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa and anything else you may celebrate!  Even though there are always stresses associated with the holidays, this is still one of my favorite times of the year (it's a close tie with Halloween!) and I look forward to spending time with loved ones and generally enjoying the festivities (which will include a marathon day of baking tomorrow with my cousin and aunt)  I'm very excited about that! 

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gastric Bypass Step 1: Making the Decision

Making the decision to have gastric bypass surgery is not an easy one, and originally, it wasn't an option I wanted at all.  Sure, I had heard about this "miracle surgery" that people could get and they would magically go from being fat to skinny in a matter of months, but why would I want to do something so drastic to my body?  Yeah, I needed to lose weight, but why do something so invasive when I can just do a better job of watching what I eat and exercising more?  When word first got out about gastric bypass surgery, I wanted nothing to do with it.  I saw it as an unnecessary extreme for people who just wanted the easy way out.  I was still young, only in my early twenties, and I had plenty of time to get myself in better shape, without the use of surgery, thank you very much! 

It wasn't until I hit my late twenties when I finally started to realize that my methods weren't working.  I tried to eat better and exercise more, I stayed away from sweets, and I even made a truce with salads, telling myself that I really did love them as much as mashed potatoes.  But nothing worked, at least not well.  I lost a few pounds here and there, but as usual, they always came back in larger quantities.  I tried skipping meals, which of course all the doctors tell you specifically not to do, but that was one of the few things that made me feel better.  I figured that by skipping breakfast or lunch, it allowed me to eat a more "regular" dinner, but without the guilt of consuming too many carbs or some kind of take-out.  The joke was on me though, because skipping meals did absolutely nothing good for me, as it generally made me hungrier by the time the next meal came, and I would just eat way more than I should.  My frustrations continued to climb and I began to suspect that I would be trapped in my over sized body forever. 

I felt lost, disappointed, self-conscious, frustrated, and generally unhappy.  I was lucky to be in a relationship with Roland (my current fiance), who loved me for who I was, both on the inside and the outside, but it still wasn't enough for me.  Although being with Roland definitely gave me a better sense of self-confidence, I still almost flinched every time he called me "Beautiful" or told me how pretty I was.  I didn't believe him, and figured that was just something people are supposed to say to the ones they love.  (Looking back now, I can see how wrong I was about assuming Roland's "required" feelings about my appearance...hindsight being 20/20 and all...but being fat your whole life can really screw with your emotions and self-perception, and at the time, I felt as far from beautiful and pretty as you can get).  Having a weight problem most of his life too, Roland was at least able to commiserate with me on being unhappy with the way we looked, and he was a great help in getting me motivated to exercise on a more routine basis, but yet again, nothing worked long-term. It wasn't until about two years ago, when Roland's cousin had the Lapband surgery, that I finally had an epiphany. 

Lapband surgery was the new "hot button" and I had been hearing commercials for it increasingly on the radio, but it wasn't until Roland's cousin actually had the surgery that I learned what was involved. Unlike the gastric bypass surgery, none of your internal organs were cut or moved around and if for whatever reason you weren't happy with the outcome, it was REVERSIBLE!  That was what truly seemed like a miracle.  After that, I did a lot of thinking and researched the Lapband surgery in every way possible.  I wanted to know what exactly it did to your body to help you lose weight, how invasive the actual surgery was to your body, and I wanted to read peoples' comments on how they felt afterwards.  Most importantly, I wanted to know how much weight people lost with the Lapband, and I was happy with what I found out.  After seeing the information online, in addition to asking Roland's cousin a million questions, I finally had a plan!  The Lapband surgery was exactly what I needed to help me lose weight...and keep it off!  And what was even better was that my local hospital (NSMC in Salem) offers a gastric surgery program and there was an information session coming up in a few weeks!  Roland jumped on the bandwagon with me and together we attended the session with plans of forging ahead with both of us having the Lapband surgery.  Who would have predicted we would get waylaid again???

During the information session we met the surgeons and they discussed the basic differences between the Lapband surgery and the gastric bypass surgery.  The session contained a lot of information, meant to help people decide which surgery they wanted, but to really get an idea of what we needed to do, we then had to set up an appointment with the surgeon as a means of discussing what the surgery would do to each of us personally.  I went into the appointment feeling optimistic for the first time in years about getting my weight  under control.  After the information session, I knew that the Lapband was still very much what I wanted, and I was looking forward to meeting with the surgeon so that we could get everything underway.  Once my height and weight were recorded and I was asked a bunch of questions about my overall health and weight history, I finally got to talk to the surgeon, Dr. Buckley, one-on-one.  Right away he told me that I didn't qualify for the Lapband surgery.  You could have knocked me over with a feather (Ironic, no?) 

Dr. Buckley explained to me that once a person's BMI (Body Mass Index) gets over a certain amount, for some unknown reason, the Lapband just does not work.  He said I would likely lose about 40 pounds in total, and that would be it.  A waste of surgery, in his opinion.  The only way for me to proceed with having surgery would be to have the gastric bypass, something I was still very unsure about.  The good news was that the gastric bypass surgery had come a long way in the past ten years; it was no longer a "dangerous" surgery and they were even performing it laproscopically now, which meant less chance of problems both during and after surgery.  I was disappointed, but had already come so far, and I had become so optimistic about the options surgery in general would give me. Dr. Buckley, sensing my hesitation, took the time to tell me all about gastric bypass surgery and he answered every one of my questions, without ever making me feel like I was taking up too much of his time.  It was in that hour long visit that I officially made the decision to have the gastric bypass surgery. 

Although part of me was still disappointed that I couldn't proceed with the Lapband surgery, I was confident in Dr. Buckley's abilities and opinions, not to mention the fact that having the gastric bypass would actually allow me to lose even more weight than the Lapband would have.  Never having had surgery before, the thought of the actual surgery itself scared me to death, but I knew this was not only what I wanted to do, but what I had to do.  I was lucky in that aside from my weight, I was otherwise healthy, and I really didn't want to wait and give myself the chance to become diabetic and/or have heart issues.  It was now or never...and I chose NOW!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My Weight History

Every day it seems that the statistics for overweight/obese people in the US continue to climb.  With the amounts of processed foods we consume and our nation's constant decline towards laziness and fast food, how are we surprised?  Some people start to pack on the pounds once they have children.  Some stay average until they reach middle age, when their metabolisms start to slow down.  Then there are others who have had a weight problem all of their lives, like me. 

As long as I can remember, I have always been bigger than most people around me.  While in school, I never had any problems making friends, and for the most part I was readily accepted into groups; people genuinely seemed to like me for me, regardless of how I looked on the outside.  But of course, not everyone felt that way, and to them I was simply the fat girl.  I'll spare you the specifics, but you all know how cruel kids can be, and I had plenty of situations both in and out of school that left me feeling insignificant, unworthy, and just plain hurt. 

Being optimistic at heart, as well as a true extrovert, I constantly found myself surrounded by people who cared about me, both friends and family. These people never made fun of me for being overweight, but there were always the constant "hints" and "reminders" that maybe I should only have one helping at dinner or that maybe I should skip dessert.  And of course, "Hey Danielle, So-and-So just started on Weight Watchers and has lost 25 pounds so far!  Isn't that great?  Have you thought about doing that?" All of these things I didn't understand as a child, but they did start to hit home as I began to mature, once I truly began to realize that for most people, one helping really was enough and that while my friends and I might eat the same things, they stayed the same weight while I continued to expand...and not just in height. 

It would be easy to blame everything on my genetics, as those honestly do play a big part when it comes to weight, however, that would not be the whole truth.  Although being overweight and having incredibly slow metabolisms does run on my mom's side, and I can thank my dad's side for having an incredible sweet tooth...the reality is that it all came down to me; the bad choices I was making and the good choices I was usually avoiding. 

From the time I started middle school up until the present day, I have wrestled with my weight...and the weight always seemed to win.  I would go through bouts of losing some weight, feeling good about myself and being motivated to continue on, but then I would get a bad grade on a test in school, have a fight with my parents, or just succumb to those joyous womanly hormones...and the diet would fly right out the window.  Of course, one could argue that it's OK to fall off the wagon as long as you just pick yourself up and get back on, but if that were as easy as it sounds, I wouldn't be sitting here writing this history to you today.  The reality was that I would fall of that expletive wagon, and instead of putting on my big girl panties and jumping back on, I would feel guilty about failing not only myself, but all of the people around me, which only made me want to eat more.  And of course, when you're feeling down and guilty, do you ever reach for carrot sticks?  No, I think not.  You reach for whatever tastes the best and makes you feel all warm and gooey chocolate!  What is this sell-uh-ree stuff anyways??? 

At this point you are probably waiting for this story to come to a head and for me to reveal some insightful epiphany I had regarding my constant battle with weight, but unfortunately that's not the way it happened. No matter what I tried, my weight only continued to increase; sometimes dipping down for a while, but always coming back...and of course it always brought friends.  I have realized that my body is basically a party for fat cells.  They just can't get enough of me!  "The more, the merrier!" is their slogan.  After becoming incredibly frustrated more times than I care to count, I eventually did realize that my only truly viable option was to have surgery...but that's a story for another time.  :)